The War of Ethics in the Ethics of War


Ewan E. Mellor – Doctoral Candidate, European University Institute,

Milla Vaha – Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Turku,

 “War is always judged twice, first with reference to the reasons states have for fighting, secondly with reference to the means they adopt.”  This is Michael Walzer’s canonical statement regarding the independence of the jus ad bellum from the jus in bello which grounds the principle of the moral equality of combatants within the just war tradition.  In recent years this principle has come under sustained critical scrutiny from those who believe it is morally incoherent and philosophically unsubstantiated, led by Jeff McMahan and David Rodin, among others.  These scholars instead argue for a principle of the moral inequality of combatants, in which combatants would be individually judged according to the justice of the war in which they are fighting.  This morally individualist and cosmopolitan approach to the ethics of war would completely transform the nature and practice of war and, concomitantly, the nature of the international system as a whole.  The debate over the principle of the moral equality of combatants is also closely related to a number of other debates within international political theory and international ethics, including the debate between communitarianism and cosmopolitanism, debates about the role and place of individual rights in the international system, and debates about the relationship between moral principles and political decision making.

Although philosophically powerful and persuasive, much of the revisionist debate has been conducted at a high level of abstraction.  As such, this workshop seeks to engage with and further the debate about the moral equality of combatants by encouraging contributions that deal with some of the implications of the revisionist argument from a political theory and international relations perspective.  It also seeks contributions that explore the implications of this debate for understanding contemporary conflicts and issues in modern warfare, where the revisionist and traditionalist approaches may lead to different conclusions.  These could include, but are not limited to, the use of drones and targeted killings, the war on terror, the detention of ‘illegal combatants’ at Guantanamo Bay, and so on.

Contributions are encouraged from doctoral students as well as established scholars, and papers may be early drafts or well on the way to completion.

2 thoughts on “The War of Ethics in the Ethics of War

  1. Dear Sirs,
    I am an Assistant Professor at Nicolas Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. I have a qeustion regarding The War of Ethics in the Ethics of War. When is this conference/seminar going to take place and when? Is there any deadline for submissions? Is there any fee? Could you give some more details about this event? Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,

    Agnieszka Szpak

    • Hello,

      The specific time and location of each panel has not yet be finalised. The panel will be held during the 8th-10th September when the conference takes place. There is a fee for all attendees of the workshop, details of which can be found under the ‘registration’ tab of the workshop drop-down menu. For submission deadlines, please contact the panel convenors (whose details are on this page). Please feel free to contact us, the conference organisers, at if you have any further questions.

      Kind regards,

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